Exhibition shooting

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Shooting at a hand thrown aerial target with a BB pistol; the slow moving BB is visible in the bright sunlight.

Exhibition shooting or trick shooting is a sport in which a marksman performs various feats of skill, frequently using non-traditional targets. Exhibition shooting tends to stress both speed and accuracy, often with elements of danger added.


Exhibition shooting has a very long history. Some of the first recorded exhibition shooters were Mongol warriors, who would show off their equestrian and archery skills by shooting at targets from the back of a galloping horse.[citation needed]

Famous shooters[edit]

Annie Oakley[edit]

Main article: Annie Oakley

With the advent of rifling came accurate firearms, and many exhibition shooters turned to these, forming the beginnings of western exhibition shooting. The most famous exhibition shooter is Annie Oakley, who toured with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. While she could shoot well with handguns, rifles, and shotguns, Oakley's preferred firearm was a .22 caliber rifle. Standard tricks of Oakley's included:

  • Cutting a playing card in half with a rifle bullet at long ranges
  • Shooting cigarettes in half while they were held by volunteers
  • Shooting a dime tossed in the air, at range of 90 feet
  • Shooting long strings of targets tossed in the air; in one instance she hit 4472 out of 5000 in a single day[1]
Elizabeth Topperwein, with gun circa 1911

Fabulous Topperweins[edit]

Main article: Adolf Topperwein

The Fabulous Topperweins, a husband and wife pair, were exhibition shooters in the early to mid-20th century. Adolf, or "Ad", began shooting as a boy, and held many positions as a professional exhibition shooter. When he married his wife, Elizabeth, later known as "Plinky", she began to shoot, and soon eclipsed her husband's not inconsiderable skills. Together, they worked as professional shooters for Winchester for over 40 years. Common tricks were Plinky shooting cigarettes out of Ad's mouth, or shooting buttons off of his vest. Ad's closing act was to draw an Indian's head on a board with bullet holes. Both Topperweins held aerial shooting records, with Ad shooting at more than 72,000 hand thrown blocks 2½ inches in diameter, and missing only nine—his longest run without a miss was 14,540. Plinky's record, the first recorded for a woman shooting aerial targets, consisted of hitting 967 of 1,000 clay targets with a .22 Semi-automatic rifle. Plinky was also the first woman to shoot in the Grand American trap shooting tournament, and she shot 100 straight targets over 200 times in her career, and 200 straight targets 14 times.[2][3]

Ed McGivern[edit]

Ed McGivern was an exhibition shooter and firearms trainer who specialized in the revolver. He still holds a number of speed shooting records (a number of which have been challenged, and some broken, by modern IPSC champion Jerry Miculek) and was known for shooting aerial targets. Common tricks included:

  • Throwing a tin can in the air, and firing six shots through it before it hit the ground
  • Throwing a dime into the air and shooting it
  • He hit cardboard discs and 1” lead discs on the edge that were thrown in the air[4]

Tom Frye[edit]

In 1959, champion Tom Frye of Remington Arms Company broke Ad Topperwein's aerial shooting record for shooting 2¼ inch cubes of wood thrown in to the air. He managed to hit 100,004 of the 100,010 wooden blocks - using several Remington Nylon 66 semi-automatic .22 Long Rifle rifles - over a period of 14 straight days. However although the same size of target was used, the comparison to Topperwein's record is disputed because of the test conditions. Firstly the shooting was undertaken in distances less than the regulation 30 ft (9.1 m). Secondly Frye's thrower tossed the target blocks over his shoulder along the line of sight of the gun. In contrast Topperwein's thrower stood beyond the regulation distance tossing the blocks vertically into the air.[5] In 1963, he had a run of 800 straight clay singles in trap shooting.[6][7]

John Huffer[edit]

In 1987, at the age of 50, John "Chief AJ" Huffer shot 40,060 consecutive 2½ inch square pine blocks over a period of 8 days without a single miss, shooting blocks he himself tossed into the air, for 14 hours a day. Huffer accomplished this using 18 .22 Long Rifle Ruger 10/22 rifles, which he cycled through as assistants loaded them for him. Huffer also markets a special "Chief AJ" branded Daisy BB gun, based on a modified model Huffer uses for daily practice, and an instruction manual and video for his style of point shooting.[8][9]

In 2008, at the age of 70, Huffer set a Guinness World Record for slingshot shooting, hitting 1,500 flying targets.

Herb Parsons[edit]

Herb Parsons (1908–1959) of Somerville, Tennessee, was Winchester's "Showman Shooter" for 30 years and was Adolph Topperwein's protégé and successor. His impressive list of honors includes: All-American Trap and Skeet Shooter; twice National and twice International Duck Calling Champion; and inductee to Trapshooting Hall of Fame, Cody Firearms Museum and Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. His signature feat was throwing by hand and individually breaking seven clay targets with a Winchester Model 12, 12 gauge pump action shotgun. Able to eject and shoot the hulls of a Model 61, .22 pump rifle, Herb was the behind-the-camera shot maker and technical adviser for Jimmy Stewart's 1950 movie Winchester 73. Parsons was mentioned by Dr. Mallard in the NCIS episode "Ships in the Night", but Gibbs doesn't know who he is.

Bob & Becky Munden[edit]

Both born in 1942. Bob is known as the Fastest Man with a Gun Who Ever Lived. The Guinness Book of Records called him "The Fastest Gun Ever Alive." Bob and Becky first performed together at a fair in California in 1968 and started touring full-time in 1969, presenting shooting demonstrations at schools and teaching gun safety. Bob and Becky Munden surpassed in longevity the storied career of exhibition shooters Ad and Plinky Topperwein. Bob Munden is best known world wide for his incredible speed from a western type holster with a standard weight single action revolver. Seen on television shows like Ripley's Believe it or Not, American Shooter, Shooting USA and Shooting USA's Impossible Shots on Outdoor Channel, and, Stan Lee's Superhumans on the History Channel. With his distinctive style of showmanship, Bob performs unique accuracy and speed demonstrations that must be seen to be believed using handguns, rifles and shotguns. He has hit targets up to 600 yards with an open sighted handgun. He splits playing cards in the air that he throws. He has opened a safety pin firing a bullet from a 1911 .45 off hand without any damage to the pin. He has spun a coin with a bullet, "threw" a knife with a bullet, shot coins down to dimes and aspirin out of the air, and has accomplished many more shots and without using a scope and with large caliber bullets that have lots of recoil. Becky is a champion shooter in her own right. She was also active in Fast Draw contests, winning many fast draw trophies and titles too. Bob and Becky met at a fast draw match. Becky won the 1986 Women's End of Trail World Championship of Cowboy Action Shooting, put on by SASS or Single Action Shooting Society. Becky's beat known trick shot pays honor to Annie Oakley. Becky shoots behind her back using a mirror to hit a target, using a .38 lever rifle. Bob Munden passed away December 10th, 2012.

Jerry Miculek[edit]

See Jerry Miculek

D. A. Bryce[edit]

D. A. Bryce, known as "Delf" or "Jelly", was born December 6, 1906 near Mountain View, in Oklahoma territory. Bryce served as an officer first with the Oklahoma City police department, then the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and later the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Bryce was also a skilled target shooter, and a fast draw expert. One of the tricks he used to demonstrate his speed was to hold a coin at shoulder height, drop it, then draw his revolver and shoot the coin by the time it reached waist height. This feat inspired an article in Life that included stroboscopic photographs of Bryce performing the draw.[11][12]

Tom Knapp[edit]

Tom Knapp was recognized as one of the greatest exhibition shooters of modern times. With TV appearances and more than 100 live shows a year in the United States and Europe, Tom has thrilled countless shooters with his seemingly impossible feats with shotguns. Of course, the shotguns that Tom shoot are CZ-USA.

Tom traveled the World for CZ-USA and the Federal Premium Ammunition Company. He had performed throughout Europe and the Mid-East covering as many as 14 Countries in 4 months! Tom performed for the public since 1987 and had entertained audiences as large as 8000 spectators at a single performance. He had appeared on numerous National and local TV networks over the years and is currently appearing on two major National networks. Tom holds three distinctive World Records in 'Freestyle Target Shooting' or 'Exhibition Shooting' which made history in the shooting industry!

Tom Knapp, an exhibition shotgun virtuoso who broke world records by picking off flocks of airborne clay targets with the flair of a western movie hero and dazzled crowds with his effortless precision shattering of golf balls, radishes, aspirin and other flying targets, died on April 26 in Rochester, Minn.

A highlight videotape from 2007 (seen by more than three million viewers on YouTube) shows him firing his pump-action weapon from the hip, from behind his back and from over his head, each time hitting his airborne targets. In one scene, he hurls his shotgun into the air, flings a clay target skyward behind him, pivots, catches his gun and fires, leaving an orange puff of dust where the plummeting target had been.

From 1993 to 2004, Mr. Knapp made and broke his own records for the number of hand-thrown clay targets struck in a single round and for speed in doing so. His last record — 10 airborne targets hit (or “dusted,” in shooting-speak) in 2.2 seconds, each struck with a separate round — was set at an exhibition in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Oct. 10, 2004.

Mr. Knapp, whose exhibitions were sponsored by firearms manufacturers, was widely considered one of the most accomplished heirs to an American tradition defined in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows by Annie Oakley and A. H. Bogardus. Mr. Knapp said he had been inspired by trick shooters of the next generation, most notably Herb Parsons, a showman who toured the country from the 1930s through the ’50s and often worked in Hollywood as a trick-shot stand-in for stars like Jimmy Stewart in “Winchester ’73” (1950), which involves a shooting contest.

“Parsons was probably the greatest of the modern era — and in my book, after him, Tom Knapp comes a very close second,” said Warren Newman, curator at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., a site of trick-shooting exhibitions. “What these two fellows did was always so much more than just shooting.”

He added: “What they did was amaze people, put on a real show. They were outstanding professionals.”

Thomas Knapp was born on Sept. 30, 1950, in Maple Plain, Minn., the youngest of five children of Howard and Virginia Knapp. His father gave him his first gun, a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun, when he was 9. At 10, he saw a televised performance by Mr. Parsons, who was famous for snap-shooting tricks like tossing three marbles into the air and shattering them with three shots. It set the direction of his life.

“From that day on,” he told Field and Stream magazine in 2007, “I dreamed about making a living with a shotgun.”

Serving as sponsors, gun and ammunition manufacturers like Winchester Olin, Federal Cartridge, Benelli USA and CZ-USA made it possible in the early ’90s for Mr. Knapp to leave his job with the Hennepin County, Minn., parks department after 25 years and tour full time.

Colleen Knapp said that before becoming ill, her husband performed steadily for almost 20 years, appearing for audiences in the United States and Europe. He inserted safety messages in the patter between tricks, she said, especially if children were in the audience.

“Do not try this; I am a trained professional,” Mr. Knapp said at one exhibition; he then tossed tomatoes and lettuce and blasted them out of the air. Next came a parade of targets of diminishing size — radishes, marbles, chalk cubes — ending with one of his trademark stunt targets, an aspirin.

“I been thinking about this aspirin here for a little while,” he said, holding it up between thumb and forefinger and shaking his head with practiced humbleness. “No guarantees,” he said, flinging it toward the sun.

He missed on the first shot. The second shot left a tiny cloud in the air, like dandelion fluff.

World Record No. 1 Tom joined Benelli in 1993 when he set his first World record with his Benelli M1 Super 90 by throwing nine standard clay targets (using no assistance) and breaking them with individual shots in less than 2 seconds!

World Record No. 2 On July 19, 2000 Tom Knapp, with his pump Shotgun in one hand, threw eight clay targets in the air with his other hand and broke every one of them with individual shots in an amazing 1.87 seconds creating a Manually Operated Pump-Gun classification.

World Record No. 3 In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on October 20th, 2004 Tom Knapp set out to make history again. With his 12-ga. Semi-Auto Shotgun and extended magazine tube, Tom launched ten clay targets into the air with one hand and shot all ten with individual shots in an unbelievable 2.2 seconds flat. The listed timing for each of these unbelievable records have been digitally recorded for accuracy.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Women in History
  2. ^ A Chronological History of the Martial Arts and Combative Sports 1900–1939
  3. ^ The Fabulous Topperweins
  4. ^ Ed McGivern, Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting and Police Training, 1938, pg. 71
  5. ^ Dick Baldwin. "The Fabulous Toepperweins". Fabulous Showmen. Retrieved August 21, 2013. 
  6. ^ Van Zwoll, Wayne (2006). Hunter's Guide to Long-Range Shooting. Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-8117-3314-9. 
  7. ^ "Tom Frye". 
  8. ^ "World Record True Story about CHIEF AJ". Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  9. ^ Tony Reid (September 25, 2005). "Area man has the muscle to back up shooting skills". Herald & Review. 
  10. ^ a b Ducks Unlimited Magazine, Leaders in Wetlands Conservation. March/April 2010, page 57.
  11. ^ Oklahoma Historical Society. "Oklahoma Journeys Week of December 5, 2009". 
  12. ^ "Speaking of Pictures...". Life. November 12, 1945.